Confessions of a Microsoft enthusiast: the best in class problem

By Kip Kniskern | In Commentary | Posted August 28, 2014 11 comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about Microsoft and its relationship with consumer enthusiasts like myself and the readers of this blog recently. Even though I’ve been lax on posting, my enthusiasm for Microsoft and its consumer products hasn’t waned. I got into this blogging game as an offshoot of Microsoft beta testing, a way for me to get the latest and greatest Microsoft products (for free, yay!), and almost more importantly, connect with others like myself. Back then, Microsoft was engaged in a full-on push to woo consumers.

But more than choosing Microsoft in order to get into beta programs and then sticking around, I just have always had a soft spot in my heart from the company that grew up right down the road from here. Also, I just don’t like Apple, or especially Google, all that much. They’re too pretentious, too dismissive of my beloved Microsoft, and too frivolous with my needs as a consumer, or more correctly, a user. I’m not here to “consume”, or especially to be consumed as a target of advertising or peer pressure. Long ago, I made a decision to “go Microsoft”, one I’ve stuck to ever since.

For a time, that decision looked like it was going to pay off in spades. Sure there were issues, as Microsoft floundered especially in the mobile space, but so much was happening. Windows Live! Live Mesh! Ray Ozzie! Spaces and OneCare and Live Search and Soapbox! SkyDrive!

Of course most of them are gone now, with the exception of Live Search (Bing) and SkyDrive (OneDrive). The push to capture the hearts and minds of Joe Average consumer seems to be largely gone, too. Instead, we have a mantra that promises to go after “high value” consumer traffic, which granted came out of Steve Ballmer’s “One Microsoft” initiative, so we’re not even sure that’s still the goal. The problem with that, of course, is that you can’t attract high value traffic with low value products. Face it, Microsoft in the consumer spaces isn’t best-in-class in anything. Name a product, I’ll show you a better one made elsewhere. IE, OneDrive, Xbox Music (!!!), app platforms, Surface (is it a tablet, or a laptop? It’s certainly not the best in either category), the list goes on.

And it’s not just full on products, either, Microsoft seems to be quite happy to let quality fall by the wayside in a rush to “catch up”. Just yesterday, after numerous public complaints about the quality of apps in the Windows and Windows Phone app stores, Microsoft deleted about 1,500 apps from the WP store, promising to apply “additional resources to speed up the review process and identify more problem apps faster”. Microsoft has long been criticized for trailing badly in the “apps race”, and the more apps they acquire, no matter how dodgy, the bigger the number they can tout. Of course that house of cards can come tumbling down quickly once users can’t find the apps they’re looking for through all the garbage.

More than just the apps, or lack thereof, Microsoft is quickly falling into a best-in-class problem with Windows Phone hardware, too. While it’s great that HTC is pushing hard in the market with the critically acclaimed and now for Windows Phone too HTC One M8, suddenly Microsoft’s Nokia phones aren’t the best in class for their own OS. The Nokia acquisition certainly delayed the cadence of phone releases, but Microsoft, only 3 months before the holidays, doesn’t have a flagship Windows Phone.

But still, I am and remain a Microsoft enthusiast, and a blogger, for that matter. I hold out hope that Microsoft can and will become a best-in-class consumer ecosystem. I have high hopes for new CEO Satya Nadella and his “challenger attitude”, and while Microsoft lags behind in consumer services, it’s in the game almost everywhere. So there’s hope, and I’m not ready to jump ship, at least not yet.

How about you? Are you a Microsoft enthusiast? Are you excited for what the future brings?

Posted August 28th, 2014 at 12:03 pm
Category: Commentary
  • uberlaff

    Best in class phone experience. Windows Phone is the best in class experience on a phone. (I’d argue on any touch device but I digress). If there was one thing keeping me around my interest around MS, its Windows Phone.

    Culture killed MS previously, I’m hoping the changes made with “One Microsoft” will bring about a new focus on ecosystem. I’m particularly interested in Joe B. and the Windows Phone team taking the reigns on all OS’s development. Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox. MS didn’t play well together internally before so each of these were previously thought of as different products in a silo. With one team overseeing development maybe we’ll finally have a singular ecosystem with Windows Threshold.

  • efjay

    Yes, I would say I’m a Microsoft enthusiast but I have to ask, what is there really to be excited about for the future? All we have are vague rumors and promises of what Threshold will bring but will it really change anything? Uniting their platforms doesn’t negate the fact that Skype on Windows 8 and Windows Phone is utter crap, and Xbox Music continues to be a mess. Will any of this change in the future? Will anything MS has planned make any difference to the average consumer who loves apple and google more than their first born, it seems?
    I like Microsoft but I’m realistic: as far as consumers are concerned Microsoft is dead and I don’t see anything coming that will change that and make them relevant outside the enterprise.

  • jkavanagh58

    I am still an enthusiast consumer as well as professional. I fear that in regards to the consumer, the perception has been tarnished so deeply that any attempts to get more deeply into the consumer business will be overlooked without much of a thought.

    • jaylyric

      Thanks in part from articles like this one.

      • Seika

        Articles are just giving a more structured words, gathering arguments and add it with spice of researched facts. Often time opinion piece are just voicing thought of the readers who can’t express our well, be it about tech industry, politics or social problem.
        Because not all are blessed with knowledge to express ideas in words.

  • Marcio Correa

    I am a Msft enthusiast and user.
    However I think people and MSFT is missing the point as to why people prefer certain products over others.

    Sure Google is eating every inch of your information through their products, but people continue to use them. Why? Because they seem to work and offer a sense of reliability.

    Apple also carries a very strong sense of “RELIABILITY” it’s not they are more innovative than other companies. The do a great job are re-inventing them buy simply refining their purpose and making them work.

    I personally don’t use apple products because I seem to have always had bad luck, between error -51, to getting a forsaken error downloading an audio book through itunes during a road trip and having to spend 3 hours on the phone to find a way to get refunded or download the book… I have plenty of stories to tell. But what ties other people to these brands is that the product works.

    For the most part, my experience with Microsoft has been that it works until recently.
    I have a Lumia 1020, and after the 8.1 update, I, along with others, seem to be suffering from a “random freeze” that can happen once a day to five or more. This has been ruining the experience on the product for the past couple of months.

    I think that if Microsoft is able to address issues like these off the bat they would create a very reliable product. At the end of the day people don’t care as much about brands as they do about price and reliability. Which is why people are willing to pay for an iphone but not so much for a windows phone. They haven’t heard how reliable the phones are in comparison. By reliability I don’t mean just working.

    Initially my big pull to Microsoft was that it had most software available to it, while Apple policed and exclusively had to permit certain software to be part of their OS. Such tight control made me abandon Apple before I could really try it. Windows on the other hand had applications of all kinds, corporate, indie… it was blissful (kind of like the iOS app availability.)

    Microsoft clearly has the funds to sustain and invest in new technologies, but instead of playing catch up, I think they should re-define their role as to WHAT EXPERIENCE do they want the consumer/enthusiast to experience and then make sure that they deliver it hassle free.

    The whole debacle of XBOX MUSIC and now the Lumia 1020 random freezes can really harm their reputation because these annoyances and inabilities to do something as simple as buy a song or depend on an alarm clock can change the perception of what else might be wrong with their products since everyone else seems to get these simple principles.

    One Microsoft is new… and is yet to show anything short of a slogan. Right now they have the opportunity to AMAZE US under this new leadership and culture. But if they take too long, they might miss their opportunity to prove the masses wrong.

  • jaylyric

    Windows Phone is best in class. Apple is still playing catch up as well. IOS7 just got it to where it is. Android is much better than it use to be,but it’s still playing catch up as well. KitKat and Android L to try and make it run smoother on the low-end anyone? Please tell me that in the iPad is the best in class tablet choice? I use an iPad and Surface RT everyday and the Surface is better.. Built better and in function. Personally I like the Windows 8 OS better. I find the live tiles useful,as I do the universal search and other elements. Could it use some work? Sure. So can IOS and Android. They all have their strength and weaknesses. As for the Surface (Especially the Pro 3) it’s more than just a best in class.. It’s in a class of its own.

  • Geoff Coupe

    I’ve stuck with, and invested in, the Microsoft ecosystem for years, and have no desire to switch to Apple or Google. Nonetheless, I’ve seen Microsoft snatch defeat from the jaws of victory all too often. Their Modern UI Apps should be flagships for their OS, they are not. The Surface Pro 3 is a delicate balancing act, which prevents it from being a best in class for me: poor fixed-focus camera, no GPS, a fan, and totally unrepairable. Perhaps they will redeem themselves with the Surface Pro 4, but I’m not holding my breath. I do like the Windows Phone OS and my Nokia Lumia 1020, however. They are a pleasure to use.

  • chinch987

    MS has the best in class experience with WP. Easy, robust & excellent use of resources. It just fell victim to sinfosky’s fragmentation of MS resources as did Windows (8). Also having guys like Brandon Watson (now at Amazon) running the dev outreach program handing lame devices to high profile bloggers (molly wood) and no dev devices to coders was really head-scratching. Ugh the poor decision making at that regime.
    Ultimately Microsoft has best excelled as a software company. Think Word/Excel vs WordPerfect/123. They are now playing catchup to some small degree due to said fragmentation. Having Onedrive code on multiple platforms instead of “one windows”.
    MS needs to get back to it’s roots and it seems to be doing that minus Balmer. If MS does not build complete solutions then who really needs Windows Phones or Windows in the future? That is what MS has failed to recognize and act quickly upon. Likewise if MS builds complete solutions for real people who want iPhone/Android that is great too!
    I’m just glad MS is in the phone game because 8 hour android phones and lame iPhones don’t meet my needs as a consumer & business owner

  • Fred A.

    Thanks for the write up Mr. Kniskern.
    …I was starting to worry ’bout you.
    Good read.

  • Ed West

    I agree, while I love MS they continue to miss being best in class
    I thought that was changing when WP7 came out, it was a refreshing break from the previous products, but they didn’t build on it to produce Windows 8 in a similar manner, gestures were different and Win 8 should have run WP7 apps without major change.
    Win 8 and RT have been confusing, and tablets with relatively small memory 16/32gb don’t have much free space for use by the users.
    Where is the touch version of the main office apps?
    Why can’t OneDrive app on Win8 view shared folders.
    These are just basics that consumers need.
    My Dell Venue 8 is amazing along with my Lumia 920, and Xbox One, universal apps are now appearing but MS still has a lot to do to become best in class.